Dear Fellow Trauma Parents

No child should experience what your child is right now. No parent should experience what you are right now. No parent should witness their child’s suffering. Yet here you are.  Here we are.

Everything has changed. Forever. That’s dramatic. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

I know what it is like to have the rug pulled out from under you. To have all of your plans and dreams permanently shattered right before your eyes. Let no one tell you different. That is what has happened to you and to your baby.

Having walked- no, dragged my ass through a similar road- I wish I could take your pain from you. Take your hurt away. Make your baby better. But, I cannot. And neither can you, and I know that that is the hardest part. The helplessness. The fear that smells like hospital soap and tastes like bile and rage.

This sucks. Sucks. It sucks so bad. Everything that you are feeling is normal. And what you and your baby are experiencing right now is not normal. It is OK to grieve that. You have to grieve it.

I know that there are people in your life who are trying to be helpful. They are filling your Facebook feed and texting you with messages of hope and “this too shall pass,” and “you’re almost there,” or “I can’t imagine,” or the worst one, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Bullshit. I call uncle. God has nothing to do with this and everything to do with carrying you through it.

They mean well. They’re still good people. But you are in a different category now. You are not like them. You never will be again. What is happening to you, to your child, to your family, it is changing you. It is making you into a different person from the inside out. You are in the beginning stages of your “new normal” and you will not go back to who you were before. That person is gone.

Your new normal involves an entire team of people who were strangers to you just days ago. They are your family, now, your tribe. You believe in them. You trust them in ways you didn’t know were possible. You know things you shouldn’t know. Medical terms. Diagnoses. Prognoses. Some days, you will barely make it out of bed because the weight of your new life is too much. Other times, a ray of hope will worm its way into your heart and you will smile again. A real smile. Not a fake smile like the one you wear for your mother-in-law or your co-workers. Joy is not gone forever. It just looks different than it did before. And in many ways, it’s better. More pure.

I will not tell you that when this is over, you will look back on this time and feel awash with gratitude for all you have been through. Because this will never be over. And I know that there is nothing you wouldn’t do to take this from your child, to swallow it whole and let it be you instead. It is jarring that your greatest lessons as a parent have come to you through your child’s trauma. Something inside you has been broken.

It is OK.

Broken things can still be useful and beautiful. The crack makes them beautiful.

Continue to let people help you. Post on social media, share or not, rage, sleep, drink, hold each other. Do what you have to do. Lean into your fear, your hurt, your anger. It is healing. Lean into the prayers of others and let them hold you. We are carrying you. I promise.

I am thinking of you. I am praying for you. Tomorrow, you will get up and do it all again.

You can do this. You have to do this. You will do this.

Confidence Manifesto

Every time I go home to NJ, a piece of my childhood has surfaced and been carelessly placed in a conspicuous place for me to see. Ribbons from swim meets, sticker books, letters from ex-boyfriends, photos. When I went home this past Christmas there were two photos sitting on the kitchen counter.

It was January of 1996. I was 20 years old. I was a junior in college. These photos were taken at the Newark airport, back in the days when you could still walk your loved one to the gate. I was about to board a 6 hour flight to London. After that I flew to Shannon, Ireland, and then took a three hour bus ride to Cork, where I would live for the next six months. I did it completely alone and without hesitation, doubt, or fear.

Monica and Dad Ireland

Monica Mom Ireland

I kept staring at the woman in these photos. I would go back to them daily.

What happened to her?

I looked at these photos and I was jealous. Of myself.

Granted at 20 years old, I didn’t know that I probably should’ve been a little more cautious and the world in 1996 was very, very different from today. But, beyond those circumstances, where did this woman go? What made her think that she could go across the ocean by herself and travel? Where did she get that confidence?

It knocked the wind out of me. Confidence. And there it was, my #oneword2016.

2016 is 19 days old and I am doing well with my word. I like how it feels on my heart. I like how I feel when I say it to myself. I used to be confident, fearless almost. Confidence made me courageous. I am diving into my word this year and I hope that when 2016 ends, I feel differently than I do today. I deserve it.

This is my confidence manifesto. These are the promises that I made to myself when I chose my word. These are the promises that will guide me this year:

I will talk to and about myself with love.

I will speak and write my truth without defensiveness or explanation.

I will apologize only when necessary.

I will eat food that is fuel for my body.

I will also eat food that brings me pleasure and I will not feel bad about myself when I do.

I will move more.

I will exercise when I can and when I want to.

I will ask for what I need.

I will be kind to myself when I fail.

I will strive to not judge others, especially other women.

I will not believe social media messages that I am not enough.

I will make progress on my book, Dear boys.

I will make progress on my business, Sheldrake Consulting.

I will be kind to myself when I do not make enough progress.

I will love myself.

I know that many of these goals are not specific. Which, according to some research, dooms me to failure because they are too big and not measurable. But here’s the thing. When I set really specific goals, like, “I will write every day for 30 minutes” or, “I will exercise three days/week” I never meet those either. Because they are so specific, if I miss one time, I go into a tailspin and then give up. So this year, I am trying more broad goals that feel more achievable. I am going in with confidence and kindness.

What is your #oneword2016? I’d love to hear about it and why you chose it.

Happy New Year!

 

2015 in Review

I hesitated to write this year-in-review post because looking back at 2015, I kept saying to myself, “Not that much happened, really.” I think that’s the thing with mothering and adulting- the days are long, but time flies. And the older I get, the shorter the years feel. So it makes sense that the past year didn’t immediately stick out as remarkable. Sort of.

I spent the early part of this week going through old emails and Outlook calendar appointments. I also deleted a ton of old emails. That was liberating! Taking the time to look back is important. It’s a reminder of the growth that happened and milestones achieved. It’s also totally OK to look back with a sense of pride and feel good about your time.

Turns out my family and I did a lot in 2015. I had a big milestone birthday- 40! Funny that I glossed over that initially. I started a business and a book. These are not small things.

In my experience, women do this a lot. We downplay things for fear of sounding braggy. It’s also a parenting survival strategy; if you dwell too long on the “stuff,” you’ll spin your wheels and get overwhelmed. As 2016 revs up, I vow to not downplay things. I will speak with confidence. I will give myself credit. I have earned it (and so have you!).

Turns out, 2015 was remarkable. In big and small ways. Here are the highlights:

  • February- First annual winter family trip. In Christmas 2014, Santa brought fewer gifts and a little cash for us to go somewhere. We voted for Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City and had a blast! This tradition will definitely continue in 2016.
Collage 2015-02-16 18_56_16

Great Wolf Lodge, Feb 2015

20150223_161355

Legit small business owner in Michigan- Sheldrake Consulting!

  • March 15- L reached 5 years off-treatment and is now officially in remission.
  • April 13- L went to his first Long-Term Survivor Follow-Up clinic appointment. He also officially graduated to one appointment/year!
  • April 19- I am godmother to my nephew, Patrick and spent an early birthday with my entire family and best friend back in Jersey.
  • April 21- The BIG 4-0!
20150421_170207

Lulu Buttercup- My pink beach cruiser bike!

20150421_171235

Celebrating with my boys. Nothin’ better.

  • Late June- As a birthday present to myself, I rented Hilltop Cottage for (and from) myself and my girlfriends and I went away for a kid-free week in the sun. This was one of the best weeks of my life.
11651144_10104028270071382_1420250610_n

PTW with the girls! Fun. Life-giving.

  • Professionally, my colleagues and I survived the summer while down two full-time staff people. We were supervisor-less from August until December. This honestly was one of the more challenging times of my professional life. I learned a big lesson, too. If more responsibilities are forced on you, ask for more money. I didn’t. I should have.
  • June/July- I created a blog series called #SAMid, designed to highlight the joys, struggles, and realities of being a mid-career professional in higher education. Colleagues contribute heartfelt and thought-provoking pieces. Search #SAMid on the blog to find the awesome-ness.
  • Labor Day weekend my mom, Grandmom Jersey, came out to PTW and we all swam in Lake Michigan! In September!
  • In September I was diagnosed with tennis and golfer’s elbow- despite not playing either of those- and began PT. Apparently you can get a “sports” injury from too much typing. Ah, 40.
20150916_170924

Physical Therapy ain’t no place for sissies!

  • September is childhood cancer awareness month. I was invited to speak to the Nursing Student Association about our journey. It was a packed house. What an honor!
20150915_201546

Thank you, MSU NSA for going #gold!

  • Fall- C’s soccer team, the Okemos Fireants, went undefeated!
  • Fall- I conquered my fear of home improvement and: 1) stained an old desk that is now in my writing corner and 2) painted our coastal living room.
  • November- I participated in #NaNoWriMo and began our family memoir, Dear Boys. I’m 30K words in! Stay tuned for official release in 2016.
  • December brought L’s tenth birthday and our annual trek to Jersey (Joisey!) to visit family and friends.

Whew! What a wonderful year. Looking back on it, we did do a lot. I highly recommend this year-in-review exercise.

Cheers to you. I hope 2015 was a good one for you and yours and that 2016 is even better.

I am lucky and grateful to be here and looking forward, with confidence, to 2016.